One man’s truth is another’s propaganda

It is one
thing to tell the truth even when it damages your friends. It’s another
to tell untruths in order not to offend your enemies. It’s one thing to
give the devil his due. It’s another to do the devil’s public relations.

How else to explain a dispatch from the Associated Press referring to
Osama bin Laden as “an exiled Saudi dissident”? Such spin may not be
inaccurate, but it’s like calling Jeffery Dahmer an “eccentric
gourmet.” It rather misses the point, don’t you think?

Similarly, a recent report on National Public Radio discussed how
dangerous Iraq is for journalists. The blame was placed on “the nature
of this war” and “the security situation.” No criticism of militant
cutthroats and car bombers was voiced.

And, of course, Reuters,
the British wire service, has decreed, “One man’s terrorist is another
man’s freedom fighter.” In Reuters’ corporate eyes, even the attacks on
the World Trade Center cannot be called terrorism.

relativism is common in academia as well as in journalism. The other
day, on a BBC radio show, I debated Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, a
professor from Rutgers University. His argument: The way to settle the
conflict with Iran is for the United States to re-open full diplomatic
relations. If President Bush would only reach out to the regime in
Tehran, he’d find there have been misunderstandings, that both sides
have made mistakes, and that there is ample room for compromise.

In response, I began to read verbatim quotes form Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian rulers about their lethal
intentions toward the United States, their genocidal plans for Israel,
their hostility toward “Anglo-Saxon civilization.”

Amirahmadi objected that scholars and journalists must not take such
remarks seriously. He suggested it was either unsophisticated or unfair
of me (maybe both) to repeat such statements on the air.

tempting to dismiss such attitudes as simply the foolishness of the
chattering classes. But the West is in the middle of a world war of
ideas _ a conflict as consequential as the war of arms. For
intellectuals to retreat to a Switzerland-of-the-mind will have
consequences. And their declaration of neutrality comes at a time when
the enemies of the Free World are bringing out the big guns.

Take, for example, al-Manar, an elaborate Lebanon-based satellite
television station owned by Hezbollah (the terrorist organization
second only to al Qaeda in number of Americans it has killed) and
financed by the militant Iranian Islamists. Every day, al-Manar
blatantly incites terrorism against Americans, Israelis and Jews.

As one al-Manar official was candid enough to tell terrorism expert Avi
Jorisch, the station attempts to “help people on the way to commit what
you in the West call a suicide mission.”

A concerted effort by
the Coalition Against Terrorist Media (CATM), an association of Muslim,
Christian, Jewish and secular groups, working in partnership with the
United States and European governments, has succeeded in removing
al-Manar from eight satellite providers _ ending its broadcasts to
North America, South America, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa, all
regions where Hezbollah terror cells are known to have a strong

But two satellite providers continue to broadcast
al-Manar to Europe and throughout much of the Middle East and North
Africa. One is owned by the Egyptian government, the recipient of
billions of dollars in U.S. aid. A second satellite company has as its
largest shareholder the Saudi government, which spends millions of
dollars to run television ads in the U.S. proclaiming itself America’s
“ally against terrorism.”

Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group
backed by Iran, also is launching its own television station, one that
is meant eventually to reach target audiences around the globe. And
Qatar-based al-Jazeera _ moderate by contrast to al-Manar, but always
the first to broadcast al-Qaeda’s messages _ is now employing such
media stars as Dave Marash, until recently a regular on ABC News’
“Nightline,” and the veteran British journalist, David Frost. Marash
and Frost are lending their credibility to the cause of militant
Islamism, whether they admit that or not, whether they understand that
or not.

“If you hamper the war effort of one side, you
automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of
remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that
is not with me is against me.’ “

It wasn’t George Bush who said that. It was George Orwell.

(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.)